At least a small glimmer of hope for Nepal in times of pandemic: In March, Nepalese authorities counted around 15,000 tourists entering the Himalayan state from abroad. That was almost twice as many as in February. In the first three months of the year, a total of about 33,000 tourists arrived. That’s about a quarter of the number of foreign vacationers who entered Nepal in the first quarter of pre-corona 2019 (about 127,000).
The mountaineering season is also picking up steam following the easing of entry restrictions. The Ministry of Tourism announced yesterday that it had so far issued 343 climbing permits for a total of nine mountains, including 192 alone, distributed among 20 expedition teams, for Mount Everest. By comparison, in the record year of 2019, the ministry had issued 381 permits for the highest mountain on earth.
Route through the Khumbu Icefall completed
Meanwhile, on Everest, the “Icefall Doctors” team has completely secured the route through the dangerous Khumbu Icefall with ladders and ropes. So the climbers can come. In the coming days, the first expedition teams are expected at the base camp.
On the 8,091-meter Annapurna I in western Nepal, some climbers have already completed the first so-called “rotations” – ascents to high camp to acclimatize. The fixed ropes are already up to an altitude of 6,700 meters. For Annapurna, the Ministry of Tourism in Kathmandu has issued 44 permits so far. This makes the dangerous mountain the second most requested eight-thousander this spring behind Everest and ahead of Lhotse (39), Dhaulagiri (30), Makalu (8) and Manaslu (1).
TAAN chief Subedi: Government decision too late
The number of trekking tourists entering Nepal is also increasing. “We issue approximately 100 TIMS cards per day,” Sarita Lama, General Secretary of the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN), wrote to me. The Trekkers’ Information Management System (TIMS) card is the official document travelers need to go trekking in Nepal. For some areas, such as the Khumbu or the Annapurna region, in addition a trekking permit is required.
Khum Bahadur Subedi is not satisfied despite the number of Nepal vacationers increasing again: “The decision of the government (to relax the entry requirements) came too late for the trekkers,” the TAAN president wrote to me.